Advance soldiers of the 10th Legion broke through the charred bits of wall that remained of the rebel fortress. The scorched earth was still hot beneath their sandaled feet as they scrambled into the breach that had taken three months of siege to open.
It was the morning of April 16th in the year 73 and the sun was just breaking over the edges of the plateau that defiantly rose 1,300 feet above the western rim of the Dead Sea. The Romans expected to face fierce resistance but were surprised instead by a landscape devoid of life, dotted here and there with smoking ruins. They cast confused, disbelieving glances at each other as they passed by warehouses filled with grain, armories full of swords, and cisterns lapping with fresh water and they silently wondered where the stubborn occupiers had fled. The legionaries cautiously made their way into the heart of the fortress, still wary of ambush but encountering not a single soul of the nearly thousand-strong Sicarii along their way.
Suddenly, shields and swords were raised in unison as a shout broke the quiet, “There! Arms ready!”
In a courtyard approaching a synagogue, a mass of humanity awaited. Scores of them were there. But they were still. None of their hands held weapons. None were moving nor even standing. And none breathed. They sat or lay in little groups; men with their wives and servants; mothers with their children.
Each body bore a single wound. Some to the throat but most to the heart.
The same scene was repeated over and over throughout the day as the fort was scoured. Not until two women were found hiding in a cave with five children, was history able to record what happened that grisly day at the Jewish mountain fortress called Masada.